by Truth About Fur, voice of the North American fur trade
“In this age of mass-produced, imported goods, textile artist and jewellery designer Vanessa Ægirsdóttir belongs to a growing band of people who want more of the benefits of commerce going to producers of raw materials, and specifically in her case to Canada’s First Nations trappers. While her family name reflects her Icelandic heritage, this artisan is Canadian born and bred, and currently lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. Together with her partner, Tlingit trapper George Bahm, her mission is to generate more economic returns for trappers of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, in whose traditional territory they reside.
TruthAboutFur: Last year you opened a boutique in Whitehorse selling mainly fur jewellery. The Yukon is known for hats and mittens made by First Nations artisans. Why not do the same? Are you trying to create a new market?
Vanessa Ægirsdóttir: Our products include scarves, hair scrunchies, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings. We will be growing the line to include housewares and garments in the future. When developing the line, I wasn’t so much trying to create a new market as much as I was looking to enhance an existing one. Yes, the Yukon is known for mukluks, moccasins, mittens and trapper hats, but there was room for me to add a jewellery line and other accessories.
I feel strongly that it is not my place to elbow my way into the traditional fur products market, and there are many extremely skilled makers who are far more qualified than I am to be making these products. When folks inquire with me about having these traditional items made, I forward the contact information of the makers that have opted into being on a referral list that I share. So while I am an agent, I am not a middle man, and we don’t sell their goods in our boutique.
I also know that many of those makers (several of whom are Elders) rely on the income generated from sewing traditional fur and hide garments, and I have absolutely no interest in taking that away from them. It’s a matter of respect.”